Minolta AF 85mm F1.4 A-mount lens review by ricardovaste

reviewer#10401 date: Jul-22-2012
sharpness: 4.5
color: 5
build: 4
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 4.7
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP24MP24 MP36MP36 MP42MP42 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:
missing
price paid:~550 GBP
positive:- IQ: Traditional Minolta colours, bokeh, contrast.
- Good detail, especially from f2.0
- Good build quality
- Good flare control
- AF is VERY accurate
- Very good skin tones
negative:- CA can be a little high in high contrast situations (mostly wide apertures)
- LCA can be distracting as well, and is essentially impossible to remove (mostly wide apertures).
- Although you get detail at 1.4, it does "glow", which makes it more difficult to get definition if you need it.
comment:Purchased February 2009.

A long awaited review! I've had this a little over 3 years now, and consciously held off writing any sort of summary. It's a lens I long desired & a classic focal length, so the words I write here are from use over time, rather than just initial reactions.

GENERAL HANDLING:

It's relatively light, compact, short tele. It's larger than other 85's of slower aperture, but pretty normal for 1.4. If you're going to use a fast 135mm, or a 70-200mm you're taking on a LOT more weight, and size. This 85mm will balance very nicely on either a a higher APS-C camera or FF camera. This is important as it feels very natural, quick & easy to use.

IMAGE QUALITY:

I mostly use this lens from f2 to f4 and I find the quality of files and prints to be very good. You get a LOT of detail, typical Minolta colours, and nice bokeh. This isn't a boring gaussian type bokeh, so you'll get a nice bit of character in the bokeh, which to me is appealing. I mention CA as a negative, but it's rarely been a problem in real life. It can sometimes stick out in metalic objects, but this can easily be removed by desaturating the magenta.

At 1.7 I still get a lot of detail and happily use it there too, often. It's really only at 1.4 where a certain glow appears, which can be negated by local contrast adjustments, but my suggestion would be to stop down a touch unless you want this effect.

I've never found flare to be a problem and I've always used the original hood. When trying to make the lens flare, I've been pleasantly surprised that it controls the flare well, and I've never noticed any ugly glare that you so often get with lenses of this era.

BUILD QUALITY:

It's a solid lens. It's also a first generation auto-focus lens. So although it's made of good materials, it is a little "clunky". The hood is plastic, which although normal, it would be nicer if it were metal - but as a FWIW, I've found the metal hood on the ZA version to be poor in comparison, the fit is not as nice and it seems to fall off all too easily. The front end, when focused to MFD, does have a wobble to it - this is normal - but does contribute to it's slightly clunky nature. The coatings seem good, I've had a lot of stuff fly at the front element and it's cleaned up fine. The outer barrel has some scratch marks and has clearly had a lot of use (previous owners) but has held up well. I've never dropped it or anything, and wouldn't want to, but it seems well put together.

AUTO FOCUS:

As mentioned, it is clunky. But it is also accurate, as many lenses of this type are geared towards (excuse the pun!). My comments are based around central AF sensors on a700/a850/a900. It's became a very reliable lens in that regard, you get to know how it likes to be focused, and it does the job very well. With the a900, I can even catch people moving towards me at wide apertures, which for our system is rather good. It'll take a while to get from MFD to infinity, so prefocus when possible to help it's on it's way. It is not the quickest, but not particularly slow either, not for my use at least, which is generally events, people - I can't comment on sports. This is screw driven, so it can also be loud if driving a long distance; this is worth considering as this can be distracting in the wrong moments, but again rarely a problem to me. Only a few times has it hunted (because of my camera work, rather than anything to do with the lens itself) during a ceremony, which has been a bit unbearable, but not unrecoverable. Worth mentioning manual focus - it can be quite easy with this lens because of the bright viewfinder and defined focusing area, stop down a little and you'll likely get consistent in focus results.

THE 85MM FOCAL LENGTH:

For me half the joy of this lens is the focal length itself, and the aperture value. It's probably my most used lens as it's so versatile. The focal length allows you many varying opportunities - a controlled portrait, a brief moment across a room, a detailed still life, a candid in a crowd - you can do so much and because of the fast aperture, you can go right into the night. Combine this with the handling and IQ qualities and you can begin to see why it's a much loved lens-type.

CONCLUSION:

It took me a few months to get to grips with this lens. Then another year to really appreciate it, how to use it, when to use it. Since then it's rewarded me tremendously, so many of my favourite images have came from this lens. The Minolta version is the most affordable in this area, so there is no excuse for not choosing this excellent lens.

If you have any questions on something I perhaps haven't touched on just drop me a message.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 52
  • sharpness: 4.77
  • color: 4.81
  • build: 4.87
  • distortion: 4.98
  • flare control: 4.46
  • overall: 4.78
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